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Volunteer USF honors exceptional students

Volunteer USF, a student-run volunteer organization that serves USF and the surrounding community, will honor exceptional students and organizations Thursday evening in its “Picture Yourself Making a Difference” ceremony. Awards will be presented to individual students and organizations that contributed over 60,000 hours of community service last year.

Individuals and student organizations applied for the awards in a variety of categories. The Volunteer Standout Performance of the Year award is presented to the most outstanding USF individual who has given time to USF and the surrounding community. The Spirit of Volunteering Student Organization of the Year is presented to the most outstanding student organization that has served the local community, and the Volunteer Faculty/Staff Member of the Year honors the an exceptional USF faculty or staff member who has dedicated service to USF and the local community.

Other award categories honor Greek, multicultural, religious, residence life, athletics and recreation, academic and professional, honors, political, special interest, graduate and service organizations.

There is also a Green Award for all USF volunteers who have given at least 75 hours of service to the local community and a Gold Award for those who have given 150 hours or more.

“Volunteer USF is a department within Student Activities in the Marshall Center. We provide opportunities for students and student organizations to get involved in community service and service-learning in the Tampa Bay community,” said Amy Simon, Volunteer USF coordinator.

Volunteer USF sponsors several programs throughout the year.

One program offers students the opportunity to travel while they volunteer.

“Alternative breaks … are intensive service experiences during weekend and week-long trips outside of the Tampa Bay area to live together and serve together. These are powerful ways for students to make new friends, travel cheaply and make a difference,” Simon said.

Over spring break, students participated in projects in New Orleans, Atlanta, New York City and Washington D.C., she said.

Other programs, Simon said, include: BLAST, which sponsors large, short-term projects that may be focused on a specific day like Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service or the Hunger Banquet.

There is also the America Reads tutoring program that allows students to use federal work-study funds to tutor elementary school children and USF Bigs in Schools, a Big Brothers and Big Sisters project in which students mentor a child at a local school or after-school program for an hour each week.

“All of our programs are led by students,” Simon explained. “There is a 16-person leadership board of students who develop all the programs, and projects are led by student site leaders.”

The Office of Multicultural Activities will also honor multicultural student organizations and multicultural organization leaders at the ceremony.

“Picture Yourself Making a Difference,” which is open to the public, will be in Marshall Center Room 270 at 5:00 p.m.